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Cory Mac Leads Qualifiers in Bristol

| , RacinToday.com Friday, May 15 2009

Cory McClenathan leaves the line at Thunder Valley.

Cory McClenathan leaves the line at Thunder Valley.


Cory McClenathan, Ashley Force Hood, and Mike Edwards were fastest in their categories during qualifying for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway on Friday.

If McClenathan’s 3.874 holds through tomorrow’s two sessions in Top Fuel, it would give him the 33rd No. 1 start of his career.

McClenathan’s run capped a spectacular nighttime session in which nine drivers dipped into the three-second zone. Running in the second-to-last pair, McClenathan powered his Fram Tough Guard dragster to a 3.874 to just bump Brandon Bernstein, who clocked a 3.875 in the previous pair, from the lead.

“(Crew chiefs) Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler may have run Funny Car for a lot of years, but they’ve done a great job with this Fram Tough Guard Top Fuel dragster,” said McClenathan. “This car goes A to B at every racetrack we go to. They told me, ‘We’re going to step on it, we’re going for it, so be ready to lift if you have to,’ but it was a flawless run. It ran almost 277 [mph] to half-track, and those numbers prove that they can do it and get the job done.

“I want to be fast and I always want to be No. 1, but I’d gladly give that No. 1 up for a win on Sunday. That’s the biggest thing.”

Tony Schumacher is third after posting a best of 3.883. Larry Dixon is fourth with a 3.886, and first-session leader Shawn Langdon was bumped down to fifth after failing to improve upon his 3.892. Doug Herbert, who is making his first start of the season, sits solidly in the field with an eighth-best 3.906, and Dom Lagana’s Top Fuel debut is off to a strong start with a 3.995 that gives him the final transfer spot heading into Saturday.

Force Hood piloted her Castrol GTX Mustang to a 4.105 to edge Tim Wilkerson by .004-second for the No. 1 spot in Funny Car. Force Hood and Wilkerson are about .02-second ahead of the rest of the field with Del Worsham’s 4.128 scoring the third spot.

“The first session was just about getting from A to B so that we’d have a good base for the rest of our runs, and fortunately things went our way and we made a good run,” said Force Hood. “But we knew that a lot of the teams would probably improve and go around us tonight. We knew conditions would be stellar, and we were hoping not to miss that chance. As every team knows, you never want to give up that Friday night run, and fortunately for us everything went smoothly and we made a nice pass.

“I knew it was good run. It felt so much faster than the first run. It was pulling really hard, I just didn’t know if it was good enough to get that No. 1 because a lot of other teams had run well, too. Fortunately, it did. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but hopefully we’ll keep making good runs. The bigger picture is doing well on race day, and we have two good runs so far, so we’re excited about that.”

Rookie of the year candidate Matt Hagan is fourth with a 4.139, followed by points leader Ron Capps (4.151), Cruz Pedregon (4.153), John Force (4.154), and Bob Tasca III (4.163). Bob Bode secured the 12th and final spot in the provisional field with a 4.210.

Edwards is halfway to his fourth No. 1 start of the season after posting a 6.698, the lone 6.6-second run thus far, to pace the Pro Stock contingent. Edwards also placed his Young Life/Penhall GXP atop the sheets in Phoenix, Gainesville, and Las Vegas.

“We made two really good runs here, and my guys are doing a good job,” said Edwards. “We spend a lot of the time at the racetrack, not so much at the national events, but we’ve been doing a lot of testing, and it’s really starting to benefit us. My hat’s off to my guys at the shop. I think I’ve about worn them all out, but when you see results like this it sure makes you feel like your work is not all in vain. I’ve got a lot of people to thank, but most of all I’d like to just thank the Lord. I have much to be thankful for, and I’m truly blessed.

“There really hasn’t been a difference as far as performance [on race day], but I’ve just not done a very good job on Sunday. I feel like I’ve given up some rounds and possibly a couple of wins, but you know, you just try to convince yourself that you’re going to get better, and we all want to do better. I’m just going to try to keep doing what I’m doing, and hopefully it’ll turn around for me.”

Points leader Jeg Coughlin sits second with a 6.712, followed closely by the 6.716 of Greg Anderson. Six drivers recorded 6.72s to secure the fourth through ninth spots, headed by the 6.721 of Greg Stanfield down to the 6.726s of Rodger Brogdon and Kurt Johnson (Brogdon won the speed tie breaker, 205.79 to 204.79, to take eighth place over K.J.). Rickie Jones anchors the provisional 12-car field with a 6.753.

– Courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Series

| , RacinToday.com Friday, May 15 2009
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